BREAKING: USyd staff vote on Week Six and Seven strikes

The vote came after the University this week made a marginally improved offer to staff after 20 months of negotiations.

The University of Sydney Branch of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) has voted to proceed with strikes on Friday this week and Wednesday next week in a Branch members meeting today. The vote came after the University this week made a marginally improved offer to staff in ongoing enterprise bargaining negotiations. 

The strikes will proceed after NTEU members passed a motion, proposed by the majority of the USyd Branch Committee, stating: 

“We reject the latest management package on the grounds of issues with education focused roles, pay, internal advertising of professional staff positions, and First Nations  employment parity. In light of this, we ratify the strike action on Friday 31st March and Wednesday 5th of April.”

Staff’s decision to proceed with the strikes meant that a foreshadowed motion, counterposed by members in the minority of the Branch Committee, to postpone the Week Six and Seven strikes was not put to a vote. 

The University’s renewed proposal to staff, announced this week, would see staff receive an additional pay increase of 1.5% across the life of the agreement, which would see staff receive a pay rise of 0.5% for each of 2024, 2025 and 2026 compared with the University’s last offer. The renewed offer would still entail a real pay cut for staff. 

July 2022 – previously paid2.1% plus $1000 one-off payment
First pay period following commencement of Agreement 20234.6% plus $2000 sign-on payment
July 20243.75% (previously 3.25%)
July 20253.75% (previously 3.25%)
June 20264.00% (previously 3.5%)
Table representing staff pay rise, sent to all USyd staff in an email by Provost Annamarie Jagose.

The new offer also entails a range of provisions relating to education focused roles (EFRs) — roles where academic staff perform significantly more teaching than they traditionally do, at the expense of time to do research — which have become a key point of contention between the NTEU and University. 

USyd management is now proposing to impose a cap of 25% on EFRs. This would mean the University could increase the amount of these roles from 220 to 650. 

Management is proposing that staff in EFRs would have a workload consisting of 70% teaching (compared with the 40% for academics in traditional “40:40:20” roles). That level of teaching would be dropped to 60% for two years for academic staff employed at EFRs at levels A, B and some of those employed at level C, before rising again to 70%, as part of the agreement. 

The NTEU has widely condemned the introduction of EFRs, saying that they entail impossible workloads for staff and would lead to division in the academic workforce between those with EFR positions and those with 40:40:20 positions. According to the Union, this would occur because of differences in workload and the obstacles teaching-heavy workloads pose to staff’s career progression. 

The NTEU further argues that the proliferation of EFRs, which the proposed agreement would see, would destabilise the nexus between teaching and research in academic work. This nexus provides academics time to perform critical research, which also provides academics the knowledge and practical experience required to be quality teachers as well. 

The latest offer contains no improvements to the University previous offer regarding Indigenous employment parity, decasualisation, or issues of professional staff’s conditions and recruitment.

Negotiations between the NTEU and University have been ongoing for 20 months.

The University of Sydney recorded a $1.04 billion surplus in 2021, the latest year for which financial information is publicly available.

The University of Sydney Branch of the NTEU has been approached for comment.

For a summary of progress made on bargaining in 2022, and then developments in February and March of this year, click the attached links.